The True Sphere Of Life: The Hereafter
We have so far concentrated on the way that the world is a temporary and deceptive place, full of seductive delusion and false baubles. It has also been explained that it is the eternal life in the Hereafter that will be the true abode. In this chapter, we shall be seeing how the Hereafter, the true sphere of life which every human being will come to after death and live for all eternity, will be a very different thing for believers and unbelievers.
The Originals Of All Things Are In The Hereafter
The definition in the Qur'an of the Afterlife as the "true life" is a matter which all people should consider, which all people should reflect upon. This expression in the Qur'an reveals that everything we imagine to be real in the life of this world is in fact very different. This life we live, the values which people spend a lifetime following, and all the beautiful things they seek to acquire are all "false" in comparison to the Hereafter. In other words, this world is full of false passions, false emotions, false successes, false loves and false friendships for those who do not seek the approval of Allah.
Believers, on the other hand, will experience in this world the happiness of hoping for Paradise, joy in the Afterlife and the "true" and "complete" versions of such emotions as joy and happiness. That being the case, a person needs to ask him or herself this: "If everything I experience in this world is false and I can only encounter the originals of them in the Hereafter, why should I make do with what is transitory and deceptive and lose, because of them, their eternal and original counterparts? Why should I not strive to attain beauties which will never fade and which will exist for ever?"
If a person asks him or herself that question with all due sincerity and answers it with the same sincerity, then he or she will strive for the truth and live a happy life in this world and also in the next. The answer to these questions that every rational person will give is, of course, "My most important aim in this world is to abide by the approval of Allah and to strive for my true life, which will last for all eternity in the Hereafter." Another question which every person capable of seeing this must ask him or herself with the same logic is that addressed by the person to his people, as revealed in the Qur'an:
"Why indeed should I not worship Him Who brought me into being, Him to Whom you will be returned?" (Surah Ya Sin, 22)
Human beings will eventually be directed to Allah and will encounter the original counterparts of all worldly things in the Hereafter. For that reason, they must sincerely consider the Hereafter, revealed as the "true life" in the Qur'an, and to live by the moral values of the Qur'an by giving thanks to our Lord, Who gave human beings such a great blessing with His infinite mercy and kindness.
The Hereafter: Pain For Unbelievers, Happiness For Believers
Everything which the human being desires lies waiting for him in the Afterlife, providing he spends his life in this world pursuing the pleasure of Allah. In the life of Paradise, there will be the blessings of infinite abundance and beauty. At the same time, believers will also experience enormous spiritual joy in Paradise and will feel such emotions as happiness, love, joy, peace and security in a far more powerful manner than in their earthly lives. Unbelievers, on the other hand, will experience pain and unimaginable torment in Hell, described in the Qu'ran as a fire "fueled by men and stones." Allah has revealed in the Qur'an that the Hereafter will be full of severe torment for unbelievers but full of blessings for the believers:
When Our signs are recited to such a person, he turns away arrogantly as if he had not heard, as if there was a great weight in his ears. So give him news of a painful punishment. (Surah Luqman, 7)
Their Lord gives them the good news of His mercy and good pleasure and Gardens where they will enjoy everlasting delight. (Surat at-Tawba, 21)
The sufferings the unbelievers will experience in the Hereafter will be incomparably greater than those in this world. Unbelievers will be punished with a torment they have never imagined and the like of which they have not previously experienced. The expression "blazing fire" is used in several verses of the Qur'an in order to describe the fierceness of the flames of Hell. In other verses, that fierceness is described as follows:
But no! It is a Raging Blaze. Stripping away the limbs and scalp. (Surat al-Ma'arij, 15-16)
Unlike this fierce torment in Hell, a very happy and peaceful environment has been prepared for the people of Paradise. Allah, in His mercy, has created Paradise for His faithful servants in the best and most perfect manner. Allah is pleased with them and will reward them with eternal joy. In the Qur'an, the following is stated:
Allah has promised the men and women of the believers Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, for ever, and fine dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. And Allah's good pleasure is even greater. That is the great victory. (Surat at-Tawba, 72)
Allah has revealed the difference between Paradise and Hell in another verse:
An image of the Garden which is promised to those who guard against evil: in it there are rivers of water which will never spoil and rivers of milk whose taste will never change and rivers of wine, delightful to all who drink it, and rivers of honey of undiluted purity; in it they will have fruit of every kind and forgiveness from their Lord. Is that like those who will be in the Fire timelessly, for ever, with boiling water to drink which lacerates their bowels? (Surah Muhammad, 15)
Imam Ghazali has invited people to think rationally on this matter by considering in his commentaries the sharp differences, as regards to pains and blessings, between Paradise and Hell:
Know that there is another home (And that is Paradise) in contrast to sorrow and sadness (i.e. flame), the abode of Hell you know. Consider the blessings and joys it will impart. That is because he who is far removed from one of these will definitely find a decision in the other. Think long and hard about the terrors of Hell and fix them in your heart. Also think long and hard about the eternal blessings promised to the people of Paradise and fix a hope in your heart. Drive earthly desires with the whip of fear and bring them to the true path by means of hope. In this way you will attain a great existence and be saved from a painful torment. Consider the people of Paradise, on whose faces is the beauty of the blessings of Paradise.
As we have seen, a person has two alternatives for the Afterlife: He or she will choose either Hell, with nothing but eternal and indescribable suffering, or Paradise, with the greatest happiness and beauty. All rational people will of course choose Paradise, "a place full of happiness and infinite blessings." That is because nobody wishes to spend all eternity without the possibility of salvation except by the will of Allah, in a place devoid of all physical and spiritual beauty, in a state of constant suffering, sorrow and regret. Any normal individual will prefer to live in happiness for all eternity with those he or she loves, in a place consisting solely of blessings and happiness, and where no difficulty, trouble, evil or imperfection is created.
The Hereafter is an absolute reality revealed by our Lord. In order to be saved from terrible suffering in the Hereafter and to attain a happy and prosperous end, people need to apprehend this truth. They must spend the time allotted to them in the life of this world in doing good deeds to gain the approval of Allah and trying to attain the moral values beloved of Him.
Let us also note that nobody must rest content with what he or she has already performed. Nobody can be certain that his or her past deeds will be sufficient for salvation. From that point of view, a person must both be joyful out of a hope of entering Paradise and also increase the level of godly deeds performed out of a fear of Hell. As revealed by Allah in the verse: "Wealth and sons are the embellishment of the life of this world. But, in your Lord's sight, right actions which are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope." (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
In the knowledge that a constant effort is nearer to gaining the approval of Allah, a person must continue to engage in godly works. As in the words of the prayer of Prophet Ibrahim (as) revealed in the Qur'an, "And make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Delight," (Surat ash-Shu'ara', 85), a person must pray to be rewarded with Paradise by Allah.